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Jimmies look to build on strong season

The University of Jamestown women's soccer team set a high bar last season.

Head coach Nick Becker says there's no reason to settle for anything less this time around as his team opens the season today. The Jimmies registered 12 victories last fall, second-most in the 20-year history of the program.

When healthy, which they are not right now, the Jimmies return nine starters. Still, Becker expects to field a strong side when Northwestern College (Iowa) visits today at 3:30 p.m.

"We haven't played our top 11 yet. It's still not clear who that will be, but we feel good about the options we have," said Becker, whose 45 victories are the most in program history.

Even with injuries to key players such as Nicole Bologna (defense), Briana De Stefano (midfielder) and Gabrielle Diarte (MF), another nice recruiting class has added to Becker's arsenal. It also helps having a returning 11-goal scorer in senior standout Connie Contreras.

"We're definitely looking to get back to the 12- or 13-win level like last year, even though we have a harder schedule," Becker said.

The Jimmies allowed just 23 goals in 19 matches last year. Junior goalkeeper Lauren Sayler returns, as do back-liners Olivia Rivas and Jaelyn Lowery. Newcomer Ana Balmaceda has also pinned down a starting spot.

Taking some of the pressure off Contreras is a point of emphasis.

Shelby Webb had two goals and two assists last season and is back for her junior campaign. The attack should get a boost from the return of Ashley Greenlund of West Fargo. Freshman forward Kristin Breaux, from Chino, Calif., is a "baller" said Becker.

"Scoring goals was kind of our Achilles heel last year," Becker said. "We need to improve in that area."

It does not figure to be easy. The Jimmies play three teams ranked in the top 17, plus conference-mates Bellevue and Viterbo also perennially solid. They also play an exhibition match at NDSU on Sept. 23.

"Our mindset is to do the same thing we did last year, if not improve on that," Becker said. "We've added some experience. If we can get everybody healthy at the same time, I think we have a pretty good group."

Dave Selvig

Selvig has been a sports writer at The Sun since 1999 and sports editor since 2009.

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